You may know Russell Hornsby as Detective Hank Griffin in the hit NBC series ‘Grimm,’ but if you haven’t seen him yet in ‘Fences,’ then it’s time to hit the theater and catch his fabulous performance. Here, he answers 5 key questions about the thought-provoking film and his role.
1) Fences is adapted from renowned playwright, August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play — what does the title Fences signify?
Russell Hornsby: “Some people build fences to keep people out and we also do things everyday to keep people close — when we play ball and go fishing with our kids, we are doing it to keep them close and fenced in. That’s how relationships are built positively — we’re using fences to tell people that we love them. A fence can be protective around your family — a familial fence. Then, there are the people who only know how to take, to abuse, to offend and they build fences to keep you out. They don’t have time to talk, they don’t have kind words, they only talk about themselves. They never give an olive branch or forgiveness — they create a fence because of their personality or behavior and they want to create a barrier to keep people out.”
In Fences, Russell’s character, Lyons, is the son of the main character, Troy, played by Denzel Washington, who also directed the film. Troy throughout the film is literally building a fence in his backyard, but of course, as Russell points out, the fence represents so much more.
2) What was it like to work with Denzel Washington, who has already won the SAG Award for Best Actor for Fences?
Russell: “He has a very light touch. He’s not intrusive. He’s hired you to work along side him and he puts his trust in you. He doesn’t want you in awe of him.”
3) In Fences, your character is a talented musician, but your father won’t go to see you perform and then he refuses to allow your younger brother to get a college scholarship to play football, even though he’s desperate to do that. What’s wrong with Troy?
Russell: “Troy doesn’t know how to express love to his kids. His own father beat him and then threw him out of the house when he was still very young. He’s too damaged to express love. He feels like providing for his kids — putting a roof over their heads and food on the table — is something his father never did for him. He feels like at least he comes home every day, he can’t do anything more. Troy also believes that he’s doing the best thing for his younger son by not allowing him to play football — he doesn’t believe a black man can succeed in sports at that time — he thinks the best thing his son can do is get an education and get a job. We can’t bring our 2016 ideas to Troy’s behavior. He’s just been hanging on all his life to survive.”
4) Viola Davis is such an impressive actress and role model for women, what is she like to work with?
Russell: “She’s very natural, easy, bright, vivacious and open. We tell jokes and stories when the camera isn’t rolling. She laughs. She’s just a regular person but she’s always ready to perform and confident in her abilities when she’s on camera.”
5) So how are you prepping for your big Oscars night?
Russell: “I’m getting my tuxedo ready. Will get manicures, facials, acupuncture, going into the steam room… all of the above!”
HollywoodLifers, make sure you run, not walk, to the theater to watch Fences and see the film win big at the Academy Awards on Feb. 26!